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6 Ways to Upgrade Your Apartment on a Budget

College apartments are notorious for being dirty and small, which are two very unfortunate things for young women like ourselves who just want to feel fabulous at home. Not to mention the fact that it’s hard enough living off more than ramen noodles on a college budget, let alone decorating an apartment to our liking. Once you’ve taken care of the essentials, how are you supposed to be able to actually decorate your apartment? Well, we have three letters for you: DIY. If you’re moving into your new apartment or trying to update your old one, here are some perfect tricks and tips to upgrade your apartment!

1. Create more storage

Any apartment can start to feel cramped when you and your roommates are trying to fit all your belongings in a tiny space. Not to mention studio apartments can literally feel like living in a box. Finding creative and simple ways to give yourself more storage space will do wonders for you and your humble abode. This clothing rack idea from Apartment Therapy is super easy to do and can help when we all commit the cardinal sin of over-packing, because, let’s be honest: A. We will never learn our lesson, and B. We obviously need a different dress for every weekend out.


  • Rope
  • An old curtain rod
  • 2 hooks
  • Hot glue gun


  • Glue the rope so that it wraps around the rod to cover the full surface.
  • Screw 2 hooks into the ceiling (make sure they’re secured).
  • Knot the rope in a loop at your desired length and hang it from the hooks.
  • Slide the rod through the loops, and voila!

2.  Use unconventional seating

No one wants ratty old couches that smell like booze left behind by the former tenants. But it’s also insanely expensive to buy new furniture for an unfurnished apartment. That’s why it’s time to get the creative juices flowing and think outside the box (and by box, we mean your dinky little apartment)! Couches made out of up-cycled palettes are an awesome fix that will suit your budget. You can personalize a DIY couch, like this idea from HomeJelly, way more than some tan leather couch you’d get at Target (no hate, Target; we still love you). They even allow for plenty of storage space beneath for books, movies and whatever else your little heart and your littler apartment desire!


  • 6 wood pallets (get from old warehouse or grocery store and see if they’ll give any away)
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Cushions and pillows
  • Flat brackets and screws


  • Sand down pallets, especially edges and corners, so that the surfaces are smooth.
  • Paint pallets the desired color and let dry.
  • To secure the pallets, screw a flat bracket onto the top and bottom pallets (on each end), and then secure another onto the top front and back of each pallet group to secure them together.
  • Cover with cushions and pillows.
  • Enjoy your cozy new couch!

3. Make your own headboard

If you’re anything like us, your bed is probably your best friend, significant other and home sweet home. That’s why you gotta show it some love (and that doesn’t mean breaking the bank). Crafting your own headboard is an awesome way to revamp your bedroom and give your bed flair. The possibilities are endless and can be as extravagant or as simple as you want. No reason you need to go splurge on some fancy bedframe, or worse, suffer through a hand-me-down covered up with carvings of, “Kate loves Bill” and, “Randy wuz hereee.” Try this idea from Mr. Kate.


  • Tapestry/fabric
  • Hammer
  • Nails


  • Secure tapestry on the wall behind your bed using nails. (Tip: Use fewer nails to make the fabric hang more loosely.)
  • Nail the hanging fabric along the ceiling above the bed at your desired length.
  • Enjoy your fashionable little cave/headboard! 

4. Make a mug mural

Kitchens in college apartments can be a little lacking when it comes to storage. It can be hard to find a place for everything, and pretty soon things start to get cluttered, dishes pile up in the sink and you just eat Easy Mac for a week until you can address the wreckage that is your kitchen without running off scared (okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration). Showcasing your coolest and cutest mugs is one way to not only make room in your cabinets for your other dishes, but also decorate your kitchen without causing you to spend all of your hard-earned pennies.


  • A thin slab of wood
  • Hooks
  • Nails
  • Hammer                                                            


  • Scatter the hooks in rows across the wood, leaving space for your mugs.
  • Mount the piece of wood on your desired spot on the wall (preferably at eye level for easy access).
  • Hang your mugs and admire your new functional and fashionable mug mural!

5. Skip the frame

Washi tape may or may not be God’s gift to college students. It’s seriously awesome and perfect for decorating your walls without permanently ruining them. There’s nothing landlords love more than keeping your security deposits because of the tiny holes all over the wall from your decorations. That’s why instead of hanging pictures and paintings, you can (and should) literally just print them out, tape them on the wall, and frame them with this wonder tape. You can even use the tape itself to make designs to break up the monotonous white walls you were stuck with.


  • Washi tape (you can purchase it at any craft store in the scrapbooking section for around $5 a roll)
  • Ruler


  • Using the ruler to keep things straight, frame your pictures.
  • Tape in patterns and designs.
  • Go wild and let your creative side out!

6. Make your own shelves

Dressers and bookshelves can be expensive, and most apartments are unfortunately not stocked with shelves where you can put all of your things. So instead, it’s beyond cheap and easy to make your own shelves. If you have an old ladder lying around at home, all you need are some wooden boards, and you’ve got yourself plenty of space to put books, movies and plants—even the TV if a TV stand is out of your budget. The best part is that you can adjust the shelves to whatever height you need to fit your things. It doesn’t get more convenient that that!


  • Ladder (preferably wooden)
  • Wooden planks (can be recycled from an old bench or purchased)
  • Hammer and nails (optional)


  • Open up the ladder and place it against wall in your desired location.
  • Place the planks through ladder rungs, leaving hangover wood off the edges for balance.
  • Nail the planks to the steps if you want to secure them for heavier objects.
  • Stack your new shelves with your favorite reads and décor!

You should love coming home to your apartment, and nothing will make you feel more at home than cute decorations and an organized living space. Not to mention you’ll still have money in your wallet to spare, so maybe splurge on those shoes you’ve been dying to get (shoe obsession is a real thing, but the first step is acceptance). Good luck with making your apartment just as fabulous as you are!

Hi! I'm Sarah and I'm a senior at Penn State University majoring in Print Journalism with minors in English and Sociology. The only thing I love more than writing is cheese... and hot dogs... and Netflix... and boys who are good at winking. I am a huge John Mayer fan, I refuse to wear a bra if I don't have to, and I'm essentially an insomniac who takes sporadic naps. I am addicted to filling up my cart online shopping and then realizing I am a broke college student and closing out the page. My greatest talent in life is being able to say all 50 states in alphabetical in under 20 seconds... my parents are very proud of me, as you can imagine. Feel free to contact me at sarahdesiderio@hercampus.comOr hit me up on the Twitter-sphere https://twitter.com/DizzyyyDesi (sometimes I'm funny)